The Divine Essence
Haqîqat al-Dhât Ilâhiyah
“Nothing is as His exegesis” (42:11)
In other words, He is not in His Essence similar to any other essence (42:11). The name Allâh denotes His Essence, which is the “Absolute Reality” (Haqîqat al-Dhâtحقيقت الذات ) and the Fountainhead of all creation, veiled from the worlds of bodies. His Essence is known only to Him, and He is existing through His own Essence, unbounded. The knowledge of His Reality (ma‘rifat Dhât معرفة ذات) can be known neither through logical proof (dalîlدليل ) nor through rational considerations )burhân-i-‘aqlîبُرهان عقلي ). He is the Only One Who knows His own Reality. He is Incomprehensible, All-Subtle (al-Latîfاللطيف , 6:103); no soul (nafsنفس ) can comprehend His Gnosis, and no body (jasd جسد ) can contain Him.
لَّا تُدْرِكُهُ الْأَبْصَارُ وَهُوَ يُدْرِكُ الْأَبْصَارَ ۖ وَهُوَ اللَّطِيفُ الْخَبِيرُ
“The physical vision comprehends Him not, but He comprehends all visions, He is the All-Subtle Being (incomprehensible and imperceptible), the All-Aware.” (6:103)
It is only He Who sees, veiled from His creation. He calls Himself the All-Knower (al-‘Alîm), the Hearer (al-Sam‘îالسميع ), the Well-Aware (al-Khabîrالخبير). He listens the unspoken, He is aware of the conscious thoughts and has full knowledge of all that goes on within human subconscious, and all those ideals, ideas and ambitions that lie hidden in the womb of futurity and which have never crossed his mind.
وَإِن تَجْهَرْ بِالْقَوْلِ فَإِنَّهُ يَعْلَمُ السِّرَّ وَأَخْفَى
“If you speak aloud, (He does not stand in need of it to let Him know), He knows the secret (thought) as well that which is yet deeper hidden [in your mind]” (20:7)
He calls Himself the First (al-Awwal) and the Last (al-Âkhir), the Manifest (al-Zâhirالظاهر) and (al-Bâtinالباطن ) the Veiled. He unites in Himself the two polarities. He is the Elevated One (al-‘Alîy العلي ), but above whom or what? More elevated than what and whom? He is elevated in Himself. His elevation is absolute and not relative, unrelated to other. His elevation is neither of degree nor of position, as these are the Attributes of person in power.
He exists of Himself, and He depends upon nothing to endow non-existence with existence. He is Holy – that is He is free from the weaknesses and limitations of bodily existence. He is infinite; He cannot be grasped by any imagination (عالم خيال). He is not only above all material limitations but also even beyond the limitations of metaphor. The cosmos is just a small bubble in the limitless Ocean that is He, so where do you stand. Your intellect is fitted for learning about the things that you can see, touch, taste or hear. “This is the highest attainment of (your) knowledge” ذَٰلِكَ مَبْلَغُهُم مِّنَ الْعِلْمِ (53:30). How can you encompass Him when your own knowledge is like a scattered dust? Your qualities have limits. “The looks fall short, the intellects are perplexed, the hearts get blind, the knowledge lost in the desert of bewilderment (hayrahحيرة ), the reason and the understanding plunges into stupidity, incapable of grasping the least secrets of His Grandeur (Jalâlجلال ) and Majesty (Jamâlجمال ; 53:28). The realities in the cosmos are only a metaphor in the corner of His infinite Knowledge” (Ibn al-‘Arabî). He alone is the source of all knowledge (68:1; 96:4-5; 55:4), of all perfections (76:3; 87:2), of all lights (24:35) of all beauties, and it is He Who origins creation and then guides it to Himself (87:3).
He is al-Akbarكبر الأ(- the Great), size is irrelevant to Him. He is al-‘Azîm, He cannot be measured. He is without limits, without dimension, not limited to a form, and no form can limit Him. His Essence is free from bodily attributes. Whatever that has a body, a location or space is not Him or a part of Him. He created the cosmos with His two hands, similar but opposite; but His Hands are not like other hands (39:67). He is the author of all creation, but neither His Pen (96:3–5) nor His Ink (68:1) are like any other ink and pen, nor is His Writing like other writing, nor is His Speech like other speech (55:4). He is the only One Who is Exalted and Glorified (الجلال), and Possessor of all Beauty (الجمال). Every moment He manifests Himself in a new state of Glory (55:29). “Reflection recedes, reason is inadequate, imagination is bewildered, and understanding is blank in the face of the Exaltation of Him who possesses Exaltation, Majesty and Greatness” (Ibn al-‘Arabî). Your knowledge is not capable of grasping the Infinite in any full and concrete sense. If you had to depend upon your mind alone, or are obliged to be content only with the evidence of your senses, you would never know Him. “Understanding and reasoning and imagining may do their utmost. But beyond, ever beyond, remain the Truth, the Essence and the Being” (Rûmî). Therefore, if you are aware that there is One Existent Who cannot be known (maujûd lâ ya‘rafuموجود لايعرفوا ), then verily “you know,” and when you acknowledge your inability to arrive at His Essence (haqîqat al-Dhâtحقيقة الذات ), and then “you have arrived.”
Every form and all entities in the universe come under the sway of His All-Comprehensive Knowledge (2:234). He is Who takes possession and cannot be possessed. He is the only Presence that comprehends all presences (al-Wajûd al-Jâm‘iالوجود الجامع ), and no worshipper worships anything but this Presence in the houses of worship—may they be synagogues, cloisters, churches, temples, or mosques—with a worship according to his intellect and upbringing (2:114; 22:40). He is neither above you nor below on the place of your prostration. “Wherever you turn your face, you will find Him there” (2:115) and “He will be with you wherever you may” in your state of existence or of non-existence.
People have raised His creatures to the level of divinity. This claim has split them into factions, and each group is satisfied with what it has (23:53). How dare we imagine that He would step down from His Throne of immense Powers to enter in the form of a being like us or to give birth to a son through the womb of a woman?
سُبْحَانَ رَبِّكَ رَبِّ الْعِزَّةِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ
“Holy is your Lord, the Lord of all honour and [immense] power. He is far above the things they attribute (to Him).” (37:180)
We become knowingly ignorant of Him. How can a limitless, infinite Being be contained in the mind or a body of such a limited being as a we are? He has no resemblance with His creation in form, nor do any of His creatures resemble Him. He is not like anything else (42:11). So transcendent is He and so far above all material conception that a likeness of Him cannot be conceived. He is beyond all comparison. How can we claim and maintain that “someone” like us can also be like Him? They who make such claims are misguided and they misguide others;
وَمَا لَهُم بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ ۖ إِن يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنَّ ۖ وَإِنَّ الظَّنَّ لَا يُغْنِي مِنَ الْحَقِّ شَيْئًا
“And they have no knowledge of the matter (concerning Him). They follow nothing but conjecture; yet by no means can a conjecture be a substitute for the established Truth.” (53:28)
They keep on wandering in utter darkness with their conjectures about Him, because they keep their eyes shut and make their hearts heedless, and their ears become sealed (2:18) to listen to the Real One (al-Haqqالحقٌ ) when He speaks (2:7) through His Revelations and through His Prophets (57:9). He is the One without beginning (57:3), contradicting any priority in the sense of existence or non-existence. He is the Unique One (Ahadأحد ) and the Only One in His Existence (al-Wâhidالواحد ), His Unique One-ness (Ahadiyyatأحديت ) cannot be shared, added to, or subtracted from by any other number (112:1). He is neither three in one nor one in three. He is beyond equal or similar, free from any reality other than His own Reality. He is the One without oneness. Only the servitude (‘abûdiyyatعبوديت ) of a worshipper has a link to His Oneness (- ahadiyyatأحديت ).
He alone possesses the Attributes of Mighty Glory (al-Jalâl) and Beautiful Majesty (al-Jamâl). He is the Only Reality (al-Haqqالحقٌ ), invisible and concealed by the veil of protecting Might (hijâb al-‘Izzaحجاب العزٌة ). He has veiled His entire creation with “seventy thousand” veils. His Veils are part of His Oneness, not separated from Him. The Light of His Theophany (tajallîتجلٌي ) covers Him, and the most brilliant of the lights in the cosmos will turn into obscurity before His Light (24:35). No body (jasdجسد ) will be able to bear His brilliance (7:143). If He would remove just one veil and manifests a glimpse of His Lordship (tajallî-i-Rabûbîyyatتجلٌي ربوبيت ), we would be unable to stand it; we would be crushed down into thousand pieces, like that mountain consumed by fire (7:143). This was the lot of the Mount where Moses stood, so where do we suppose we will be when He manifests a glimpse of the Uniqueness of His Divine Theophany and Glory (tajallî-i-Ûlûhiyya تجلٌي أُلوهيت )? So praised be He Who veils Himself from the mortals. How can we enumerate His Praise as it deserves to be appreciated? We have our limits. He has, therefore, praised Himself with His own words الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ “All praise is due to the rightfully worshipped Being whose name is Allâh, Who combines in Himself the aggregate of all Perfect Excellences and Praise” (1:2).
His worshippers endowed with insight and understanding (ahl al-Basîr wa Albâb اهل البصيروالباب), treading on the path illuminated by Him, can arrive at only the last veil of His Glory and Might (hijâb al-‘Izza), which He will never lift, for there is no way to raise that veil (53:7-12). They will stand before His last veil of Glory and Might (53:14), that is sidrat al-Muntahâ سِدْرَةِ الْمُنتَهَىٰ, the farthest end of Knowledge, near there is the Garden, which is the real eternal abode عِندَهَا جَنَّةُ الْمَأْوَى and He, the Lord of Glory and Might (Rabb al-‘Izza; ربٌ الْعِزَّةِ; 37:180), will call to them and respond to them in abundance, for they will be sanctified and exalted by Him.
Our eyes shall continue to stray far and wide, looking for Him. Our questions and cries “O! Where are You?” melt into tears of a thousand streams, though He deluges the world with assurances: فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ “I am nearby indeed!” (2:186); وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِيدِ “We are nearer to him [the human being] than even (his) jugular vein” (50:16); وَنَعْلَمُ مَا تُوَسْوِسُ بِهِ نَفْسُهُ “and We know what suggestions (your) mind makes” (50:16). When the eyes are finally shut down, we shall hear Him say, لَّقَدْ كُنتَ فِي غَفْلَةٍ مِّنْ هَـٰذَا فَكَشَفْنَا عَنكَ غِطَاءَكَ فَبَصَرُكَ الْيَوْمَ حَدِيدٌ “Certainly, you were heedless of this day. But (now) We have removed from you your veil and your sight is very sharp this day [to look beyond the veils that covered you]” (50:22). Your soul’s existence shall never cease but his ignorance about Him shall cease that Day (56:35). Extol, therefore, the Holiness of the Name of your Lord (87:1):
سُبْحَانَ رَبِّكَ رَبِّ الْعِزَّةِ
“Holy is your Lord, the Lord of all honour and power” (37:180)